Tip #1: How can I get the most out of vocational rehabilitation services?
by Emmanuel Smith
Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) works alongside individuals with disabilities as they move towards their employment goals. As a client of Vocational Rehabilitation for many years, I consider VR’s assistance and support to be a key part of what allowed me to go to school, and ultimately work in the field of disability advocacy. Like any large state service however, it can be difficult to fully understand what Vocational Rehabilitation counselors can and cannot offer their clients as well as the specific responsibilities being a client of VR carries.
Vocational Rehabilitation is equipped to help people with disabilities transcend barriers to employment, sometimes by creating job shadowing and internship opportunities, providing vocational training, or offering financial support. It’s probably this last area that prompts the most confusion from clients. Though VR provides monetary assistance for school and needs connected to the job search, their financial support has to very clearly connect to your employment goals. For example, while VR may be able to help me get a piece of adaptive equipment to enable me to work at a job, they aren’t about to simply buy the most expensive option when equally effective alternatives exist. Though my counselor may find me assistance in buying interview clothes, they aren’t about to finance a whole new spring wardrobe.
As comprehensive and important as VR services are, they don’t create job opportunities out of thin air. Any job search depends most on the passion and determination of the individual at the center of the process. Clients, not counselors, create success. Knowing then the full scope of what Vocational Rehabilitation can offer is all the more important.
If you are a Social Security beneficiary and would like DRI to advocate on your behalf to obtain appropriate and timely VR services, please contact DRI’s intake specialist Hope Richardson at 1-800-779-2502 x12 between 9:00 am and 12:30 pm Monday through Friday.
Tip #2: How can I request a reasonable accommodation from an employer?
If you have a disability that creates a barrier for you to compete for a job, perform a job, or gain equal access to employment benefits, you may be able to request an accommodation. A reasonable accommodation can be anything that helps an individual, so they are specific to the needs of the individual. An accommodation could be anything from time off, the ability to take extended breaks, assistive technology, raised desk, and many others. Should you need an accommodation, there are a few things you should make sure to do.
First and foremost, you need to tell your employer. If you do not tell them you need an accommodation, and your job performance slips because you do not have the accommodation, you will not be protected by the law. When you make that request, there are no special words that you have to say. It is very important you make the request in writing that identifies your need for an accommodation, suggested accommodations, and your employer’s name. After your request is made, the employer begins a process where they will meet with you, your direct supervisor, and anyone else you would like to have there and engage in a discussion where you will all try to find an ideal situation for everyone involved.
If you are a Social Security beneficiary and need assistance in getting reasonable accommodations, please contact DRI’s intake specialist at 1-800-779-2502 x12 between 9:00 am and 12:30 pm Monday through Friday.
Tip #3: How does Social Security employment supports (work incentives) help?
Employment supports are in place to assist you in your efforts to become self-sufficient through work. They can help you find a job or start a business, protect your cash and medical benefits while you work, or save money to go to school. If your benefits end because of your work and you have to stop working later, employment supports can make it easy to begin receiving benefits again. There are employment-supports or work incentive provisions that are available under the two disability related programs through the Social Security Administration:
The SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) employment supports provide help over a long period to allow you to test your ability to work, or to continue working, and gradually become self-supporting and independent.
The SSI (Supplemental Security income) employment supports offer ways for you to continue receiving your SSI checks and/or Medicaid coverage while you work. Some of these provisions can increase your net income to help cover special expenses.
How do you find out more about work incentives or employment supports? Contact your local Community Work Incentives Coordinator (CWIC). They focus on you, your choices, your future, and especially your work goals.
CWICs distribute accurate information to beneficiaries receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and the work incentives available under these programs.
If you are a Social Security beneficiary and need assistance with work incentives, please contact DRI’s intake specialist at 1-800-779-2502 x12 between 9:00 am and 12:30 pm Monday through Friday.
Tip #4: How do I report my wages to Social Security?
To make sure you get timely and accurate payments, you must participate in monthly wage reporting. Each month, take or mail all pay stubs to your local Social Security office. Be sure to include pay stubs for overtime, vacation pay and bonuses. If you have receipts for disability-related items or services necessary for work, turn those in as well.
Most people with telephone access can report wages using Social Security’s automated phone system. Reporting monthly wages by phone saves paper, postage and time by eliminating the need to copy, fax or mail wage evidence to the local office. Contact Social Security to learn more.
Social security also has many online features to save you time and money. For example, if you need proof that you are receiving Social Security benefits, Supplemental Security Income and/or Medicare, you can request a benefit verification letter online by using your “my Social Security” account. To set up or use your account to get a benefit verification letter, go to www.socialsecurity.gov and click on “Sign In / Create An Account”.
You can view, print, and save your benefit verification letter. The benefit verification letter is also called a budget letter, benefit letter, proof-of-income letter, or proof of award letter.